Oriol Ripol capped a sensational counter-attack to seal victory for Sale and heap more misery on GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP rivals Harlequins.
The game was delicately poised at 10-6 in the 53rd minute when the diminutive Spain wing collected Rory Lamont’s pass and plunged over in the left corner to finish an excellent break from Mark Cueto.
Charlie Hodgson landed the conversion from near the touchline to give Sale breathing space at 17-6 and the Sharks never looked back from there, despite a spirited fightback from the visitors.
Not since a 26-25 defeat to Leicester last April have the Sharks lost at home in the Premiership and victory provided the perfect antidote to their recent reverse at London Irish.
The Sharks’ efforts drew rich applause from Gerry McCann, who sat alongside Sale owner Brian Kennedy in the directors’ box.
Kennedy, a millionaire businessman, has given McCann and his wife Kate financial support in their bid to find their daughter Madeleine, who was last seen in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, Portugal on May 3 last year – shortly before her fourth birthday.
A swirling wind and a cabbage patch of a pitch ensured there was precious little freeflowing rugby played on a night when several players were keen to display their qualities ahead of the start of the RBS 6 Nations next weekend.
Sharks number eight Sebastien Chabal, the iconic figure from France’s World Cup campaign, was among a host of absentees in the Six Nations squad new coach Marc Lievremont announced this week.
He responded well to the snub with a typically powerful display, as did team-mate Sebastien Bruno, who was similarly overlooked by Lievremont, and the superiority of Sale’s pack over their opponent’s ultimately proved telling.
Chabal led by example and his prodigious leap to win a line-out in the third minute was indicative of his commitment.
It was from a set-piece that gave Sale the field position to set up a driving maul from which second row Chris Jones ploughed his way over.
Hodgson added the extras but Sale struggled to build on their early momentum and two penalties from opposite number Adrian Jarvis cut the gap to a single point at the break after Hodgson screwed another penalty attempt wide.
Luke McAlister assumed kicking duties from Hodgson in the 52nd minute and he converted a penalty to edge Sale 10-6 ahead and soon after Ripol’s excellent finish and Hodgson’s conversion put Sale in control.
The Sharks then saw a score from Lee Thomas chalked off by the video referee, who then awarded Quins a try following a touchdown from replacement Tani Fuga.
Jarvis converted but Hodgson had the final say with a last-minute penalty.